|A Reader's Guide
to William Gaddis's The Recognitions
II.2 pp. pages 374-381
374.5] Sie kocht schlecht: Ger: "She cooks badly."
374.13] pudridero [...] Charles the Second: king of Spain 1665-1700; died childless. "The deformed and retarded 'Charles the Bewitched' was a notorious example of Hapsburg inbreeding" (Rodger Cunningham).
374.19] the sixth heaven all enclosed [...] the seventh, of shining light: see note on "the seven heavens of the Arabs" (257.32).
374.33] Allegro ma non troppo: "Lively, but not too fast": a musical indication of tempo.
374.37] Martha Constantine: see 371.32.
375.5] Transdanubia: a region of Hungary.
375.14] bottom of a tank: the residence of the Frog King (see 273.14); "tank" is an Anglo-Indian term for "lake," which Gaddis would have come across in Ackerley's Hindoo Holiday (see 733.epigraph).
375.15] troll king [...] fine and brave": in act 2, scene 6 of Ibsen's drama Peer Gynt (1867), Peer visits the mountain domain of the troll king to ask for his daughter's hand. The king insists Peer must first become like a troll and gives him a tail and a special drink. But Peer's human nature persists:
[troll king]: My son-in-law, now, is as pliant as any;
(Trans. William and Charles Archer; see Gaddis's own gloss at 545.27.)
375.31] "I min Tro [...] Solveig: Solveig is a young woman who leaves her family to join the fugitive Peer, then patiently waits for him (and, more importantly, believes in him) while he is off on his adventures. When he finally returns at the end of the play, Peer asks: "Where was I, as myself, as the whole man, the true man? / Where was I, with God's sigil upon my brow?" and Solveig answers: "In my faith, in my hope, and in my love" (the translators give the Norwegian original, quoted by Wyatt, in a footnote). Valentine later mocks this line (551.8).
375.36] Zeno: founder of the Stoic school of philosophy (?. late fourth-early third centuries B.C.). LEP 7 records the anecdote but says he broke a toe, not a finger.
376.11] What chance has he, old earth, when hierophants conspire: not a quotation (WG/SM); Gaddis would have encountered the word "hierophants" in Geden ( SPIM 59).
376.21] Cleanthes: Greek Stoic philosopher of the third century B.C.; he succeeded Zeno as the head of the Stoic school. His last words are recorded in LEP.
376.44] Cardinal Richelieu [...] on his death bed: see 46.36.
377.2] in Egypt [...] We treated sore eyes with the urine of a faithful wife: "The early Egyptian physicians made considerable use of drugs. [...] It is said that the urine of a faithful wife was with them effective in the treatment of sore eyes. The tale concerning the difficulty in obtaining this remedy (or the ineffectiveness of its cures) has come down with variations through folk tales" (DDD 336).
377.25] Mara: in Hindu mythology, the god of temptation who tries to turn Buddha away from his path. In a famous myth, the daughters of Mara - Lust, Delight, and Pining - tried in vain to entice Buddha out from under the Bodhi-tree.
377.26] That was before Buddhism was corrupted by idolatry: commenting on the eventual concretization of the Hindu trinity, Saltus writes: "Female counterparts were found for them, and the most poetic of the creeds of man was lowered in a sensuous idolatry" (AN 8). Cf. 497.30 and note.
377.30] Varé tava soskei: see 255.24.
377.32] gold bull busting an egg [...] to give birth to the earth: from AMM (264-65), quoting/translating from Eugène Marie Dognée's Les Symboles Antiques, l'uf (1865):
"In Japan, in the Pagoda of Miaco," he says, "upon a large square altar is placed a bull of massive gold on a block of rock; the animal is ornamented by a rich collar, and pushes with its horns an egg floating in the water contained in a cavity of the rock. To explain this image, the following is told by the Priests. At the time of chaos, before the creation, the world was concealed and inert in an egg which floated on the surface of the waters. . . . The divine bull image of creative force broke the egg by a stroke of its horns, and from the egg issued the terrestrial globe."
377.44] Before death came into the world [...] religion is the despair of magic: see 11.44-12.1.
378.1] Night and Chaos: "The story of Leda and the parallel one of Latona are but distorted cosmic myths and Night and Chaos, from which is formed the egg mundane" (AMM 266).
378.3] Religion is the mother of sin. [...] That's Lucretius: in the first book of De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius (d. 54 B.C.) speaks of the evils committed in the name of religion. Gaddis found the line in Saltus: "To those who objected that in devastating the skies [of gods] a high-road was opened to crime, Lucretius, pointing to the holocausts, the hecatombs and the sacrifices, answered, 'It is religion that is the mother of sin.'
"'Religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.'"
(AN 62). The Latin is quoted at 392.37.
378.5] griffin's egg [...] a clear liquid: Wyatt runs together several quotations from Lethaby: "The 'Griffin's egg' was a common ornament in our own mediæval churches" (AMM 257); "[The Christians of Egypt] 'consider them [ostrich eggs] the emblems of watchfulness: sometimes they use them with a different view; the rope of their lamps is passed through an ostrich egg shell in order to prevent rats coming down and drinking the oil, as we were assured by the monks of Dayr Antonios'" (265, quoting from Sir J. F. Wilkinson's Many Bones of Egypt viz: A Popular Account of the Ancient Egyptians ); "The 'Griffin's eggs' were not necessarily ostrich eggs; in one instance they are described as having a brown and hairy exterior, the inside white, with a clear liquid yelk [sic]. We can buy them now for four-pence, as cocoa-nuts" (258).
378.14] Die Geschichte der fränkischen Könige Childerich und Clodovech:History of the Frankish Kings Childeric and Clovis, an 1857 study by W. Junghans, cited in the bibliography to EB's article on Clovis, the source for the anecdote that follows.
378.15] Christmas day [...] His wife converted him: "The legend runs that, in the thickest of the fight, Clovis swore that he would be converted to the God of Clotilda if her God would grant him the victory. After subduing a part of the Alamanni, Clovis went to Reims, where he was baptized by St. Remigius on Christmas day 496, together with 3,000 Franks. The story of the phial of holy oil (the Sainte Ampoule) brought from heaven by a white dove for the baptism of Clovis was invented by archbishop Hincmar of Reims three centuries after the event" (EB 5:856).
378.21] even the Stoics believed the sun was animated and intelligent: the Stoic Zeno (375.36) held this belief (LEP 7).
378.26] Pilgrim Hymnal. [...] wilt not despise": from the conclusion of "A Prayer for Forgiveness and Renewal," "Responsive Readings" no. 618 (adapted from Psalm 51), PH 71:
me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation:
The boldface lines (printed thus in PH) are the congregation's responses; note that Wyatt confuses the fifth line for a response.
379.5] Mother Shipton: fictitious English prophetess said to have lived during the reign of Henry VIII and to have made a number of extraordinary predictions. Her life and prophecies are recounted in EPD 267-69.
379.21] Yetzer hara, the evil heart: a kind of evil angel that, according to Jewish legend, attends every person.
379.41] Novalis [...] appealed to all the most dangerous parts of me: Novalis was the pen name of Friedrich von Hardenburg (1772-1801), German poet and novelist, the leading poet of early German Romanticism. LWW singles out Novalis as the chief advocate of blending death with love; romanticism is dangerous, then, insofar as it caters to the death instinct.
380.27] no scene in all Greek literature [...] our Christian culture: apparently the reference is to the death of Socrates (379.23) as reported in Plato's Phaedo.
380.35] The Stars and Stripes Forever [...] Thunder and Lightning Polka: the first is a famous Sousa march, the second a popular instrumental by Johann Strauss, Jr.
381.5] Juan de Valdés Leal: (1630-91), Spanish painter and engraver; mentioned again at 873.21.
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